This year, turn the page on technology

Gary Bryant

Gary Bryant is the UK Manager of ITSI, a digital solution that empowers educators and students by simplifying the teaching and learning experience. Gary has worked in education for a number of years, introducing new and innovative technology solutions across all phases.

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Image credit: MaxPixel. Image credit: MaxPixel.

For many years, methods of teaching remained the same: students reading from textbooks, writing notes to process information, and gaining all the key knowledge needed for the world around them. The boom in technology at the turn of the millennium, however, saw traditional methods of teaching become overshadowed by new devices and software packages that revolutionised the learning landscape. The focus is now on creating a 21st Century education. With this in mind, in this school year should we be ignoring traditional methods of learning altogether, or actually integrating these with technology?

Technology is very much present in many (if not all) aspects of our lives. With the growth of personal devices and even developments in artificial intelligence, it is difficult to avoid the use of technology, so why should education be any different? Technology can be a great tool in the classroom as long as it is used to enhance learning, and not for its own sake. The essence “Teachers can independently update information in ebooks, finding suitable content specifically for their class.”of teaching needs to remain the same: with the learner’s best interests at heart. Undoubtedly, adopting technology within education comes with its own issues. Many parents and educators worry that the use of technology can in fact hinder learning in the classroom.

Although concerns like this are understandable, the integration of technology can be extremely beneficial for the classroom. For example, teachers can independently update information in ebooks, finding suitable content specifically for their class. In addition, it can allow teachers to monitor how pupils are using their eBook accounts during classroom hours. This monitoring quashes parents’ fear of decreased engagement in the classroom, and increases the ability to understand and keep learning on task.

While the benefits of technology for parents, students and parents are evident, this doesn’t mean that traditional methods such as note-taking should be eradicated from the classroom. We cannot forget the importance of the tried and tested methods of learning. Textbooks are still used globally, despite sometimes being branded as an ‘old fashioned’ method of learning. In fact, countries leading the way in education, including Finland, still appreciate the traditional ways of learning whilst also being open to the integration of technology. Yet, why does one method have to be favoured over the other? Integrating technology to aid the traditional methods such as using textbooks and writing notes can benefit students’ education in several ways, and this is something that can be developed throughout 2017/18.

One-size-fits-all doesn’t work!

One clear benefit of using technology in education is that the learning can provide opportunities for students to learn above and beyond. For example, using digital resources in the classroom (or allowing it to be accessed from home) can increase the likelihood of students’ engaging in independent learning and research. With the future job markets often citing the desire for critical thinking and research skills, developing these skills early could be a lifelong benefit.

Many of us will remember learning perfectly well from textbooks, especially during exam season. Yet, wouldn’t it have been beneficial to be able to interact with additional content through the use of technology in the classroom? The blending of technology with the core information provided in textbooks allows students to deepen their understanding of topics, which I know I would have found especially useful during the intense revision period!

Constant updates

Printed textbooks can provide great theory outlines and overviews of key information that will always be needed. However, a common disadvantage to textbooks is that they are only updated on a yearly or time-constrained basis; ebooks, on the other hand, can be updated “Textbooks are only updated on a yearly or time-constrained basis.”by educators with new additional content easily and quickly, as and when required. Taking the subject of politics, for example, in a period of great change, printed textbooks will often discuss Government policy and actions quickly overtaken by events and may not be updated until a year later, missing those key political shifts and changes, which could most certainly help students in any upcoming exams.

Traditional textbooks are important for historical reference, but ebooks can enhance learning using video, graphic content and the ability to annotate content or notes straight on the digital page.

A global approach?

Ebooks can also be used to create a global approach to a topic. For example, teachers can find extension materials that are globally available, such as TED talks on the selected topic, and link these into the textbook. Students have the chance to interact with the theorists who are leading the way on the subject. This can allow for a wider understanding of the social world that we live in as well as encouraging critical thinking skills from questioning and understanding different perspectives on a topic.

While initially the use of technology within education may have been met with scepticism and fear, increasingly schools and teachers are finding that it undeniably enhances the learning experience. It allows pupils to learn in a multitude of ways, breaking the mould of the ‘one-size-fits-all’ mentality, which is more likely going to encourage learning and builds key skills they will surely need for the future. The ever-growing use of technology isn’t going to disappear any time soon, so instead of turning a blind eye, it’s time to adopt the attitude of 21st Century learning. This year, schools have the chance to combine the innovation of technology with the stability and effectiveness of traditional teaching methods.

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